Banana

History

Bananas are believed to have originated up to 10,000 years ago and some scientists believe they may have been the world’s first fruit. The first bananas are thought to have grown in the region that includes the Malaya Peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Guinea. From here, traders and travelers took them to India, Africa and Polynesia. There were references to bananas from 600 BC when Buddhist scriptures, know as the Pali Canon, noted Indian traders travelling through the Malaysian region had tasted the fruit and brought plants back with them. In 327 BC, when Alexander The Great and his army invaded India, he discovered banana crop in the Indian Valleys. After tasting this unusual fruit for the first time, he introduced this new discovery to the Western world. By 200 AD bananas had spread to China. According to the Chinese historian Yang Fu, bananas only ever grew in the southern region of China. They were never really popular until the 20th Century as they were considered to be a strange and exotic alien fruit.

The bananas we enjoy today are far better than the original wild fruit which contained many large, hard seeds and not much tasty pulp. Bananas as we know them began to be developed in Africa about 650 AD. There was a cross breeding of two varieties of wild bananas, the Musa Acuminata and the Musa Baalbisiana. From this process, some bananas became seedless and more like the bananas we eat today. Bananas are Australia’s number-one selling supermarket product, outselling not only every other fruit and vegetable but every other supermarket line.

What are they

Banana plants are the largest plants on earth without a woody stem. They are actually giant herbs of the same family as lilies, orchids and palms. Banana plants can grow to heights up to 9 metres and look very much like a tree. They are the largest plant on earth without a woody stem.

Where are they grown

Australia’s main banana growing area is the wet tropics of northern Queensland.  Other production areas are in south-east Queensland, northern New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Variety

Cavendish, Lady Finger, Ducasse, sugar bananas, Goldfinger, Red Dakkas and cooking bananas (plantains). 

How to know when they are ripe

Fruit is harvested, packed and marketed while still green. Ripening is usually done at the wholesale markets.

Fruit which looks round at harvest is too far gone to survive the commercial ripening process intact. In practice this means the fruit should still have noticeable corners at harvest so cut when the fingers are 75% full.

Life cycle

Australian bananas are a product of the rain and sunshine of the tropics and sub tropics. From the time of planting it usually takes 12 months or so to produce the first bunch, with subsequent bunches every 8-10 months thereafter. Because commercial banana plants cannot produce seeds, they are predominately propagated from their underground rhizomes called corms or tissue culture.

Seasonality

All year round

 

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

Jul

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Bananas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weather impacts

As bananas are susceptible to frost damage, they should only be grown on warm, sheltered, frost free sites. Injury to the plant begins when temperate drop below 13  C.

Local market

Fresh consumption, processed.

Storage

After packing fruit it should be stored in cold rooms with temperatures 14 ͦ C or above.

Nutrition

Bananas are a healthy and nutritious food containing potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, niacin and riboflavin. They have a low GI rating and give a sustained energy boost.

Packaging

Cartons weigh a minimum of 13 kilograms.

Links for more information

Australian Banana Growers Council www.abgc.org.au

Australian Bananas www.australianbananas.com.au

 

References

Australian Banana Growers Council Inc www.abgc.org.au/ (January 2016)

Australian Bananas www.australianbananas.com.au (January 2016)  

Queensland Department Agriculture and Fisheries ‘Subtropical Banana Growers Handbook’  http://era.daf.qld.gov.au/1966/2/2_subtrop-banana-bys.pdf (January 2016)